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Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Thomas Prammer
[Peter Duris 80]
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Defensive woes mount as Goncalves is ruled out of European tie


HEARTS' defensive anguish continued today with the news that Portuguese centre-back Jose Goncalves has "no chance" of starting the club's Champions League campaign.

Head coach Valdas Ivanauskas and his assistant John McGlynn are fearing the worst for Goncalves, who has yet to participate in any pre-season training since having an operation on his toes.

Ibrahim Tall is still unable to train fully with the squad at their base in Austria but has been doing light work, although the loss of Goncalves, with Andy Webster having freed himself from his Hearts contract, is considered a major blow.

The Jambos face a second qualifying round tie against either Shakhtyor Soligorsk of Belarus or Bosnians Siroki Brijeg, with the first leg on July 25/26.

Ivanauskas revealed: "Jose has no chance for the first Champions League game. He is working hard in Edinburgh after his operation. In my opinion, it will be one or two months before we see him, which is not a good situation for Jose or for us. He needs time to recover. It is frustrating with the injuries but most of the smaller ones are normal in pre-season.

"Every minute isn important in pre-season but we are happy with the work the guys are putting in here in Austria."

No.2 McGlynn added: "Jose's hamstring injury has cleared up, but it may well be that time is running out for him to get in a serious game before the competitive action starts. Valdas and I are starting to fear that the games might come too quickly for him after the operation, simply because he hasn't done anything at all.

"It's a shame because Jose looks a good prospect and he did really well at the end of last season. Unfortunately, the injured hamstring finished him for the season.

"But we do have cover. Ibrahim Tall has come in and done well and Christophe Berra is also a good young player with a big career a head of him. These guys will not let us down."

Paul Hartley has left the Hearts camp in Windischgarsten, accompanied by physio Andy Caldwell, to seek the opinion of a specialist in France on his groin problem. He is expected back at the start of the week.

Ivanauskas is pleased to have Georgian trialist Giorgi Popkhadze on board as he seeks more fresh faces to supplement his squad. "He is just a young boy but he has a big future," said the Lithuanian. "He can play in defence and midfield and I will assess him. There are clubs from Russia and other countries who want to sign him but we have the chance to take him."

The venue of Hearts' final match in Austria has changed to SV Steinach's stadium in Steinach-lerdning, around 40km from Windischgarsten. The game has a 6pm kick-off local time.

Taken from the Scotsman

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